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    Romanian scientists create artificial blood


    Romanian scientists have created a blood-like liquid that could be used in surgery or for transfusions in case of accidents. The artificial blood contains a protein from sea worms. It has been tested on mice and the team behind the work says the results are encouraging.

    source euronews
     
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    Making fire from water


    A portable device that makes fire from water has been developed within a European research project. It doesn’t use flammable gases, it produces its own fuel as needed.

    Andrew Ellis, a research technologist with ITM Power, explained: “This is an electrolyzer system we’ve got here. It’s been developed to use a standard mains electricity supply, and water. The water is split into hydrogen and oxygen gases and fed into a torch where a flame is produced, which can then be used for brazing or any other industrial application where flame is used. So it’s just using water to make a flame, basically.”

    Traditionally, the use of electrolyzers has been limited by the high costs of membranes and of catalysts requiring platinum or other precious metals. The researchers wanted to make this technology more affordable.

    Andrew Ellis said: “We’ve got a whole team of chemists working on new formulations of membrane, which have shown increases in the performance of the electrolyzer. We’ve also been doing lots of research on catalysts, trying to reduce the amount of platinum and looking into much cheaper materials that can be used in the cells. And this research has led to big reduction in the cost of electrolyzer systems.”

    Hydrogen and oxygen are recombined at the very tip of the torch, creating a flame that is cooler and much easier to handle than commonly-used mixtures of oxygen with propane or acetylene.

    Rory Olney, a welding consultant, said: “You can see from the flame that it’s a lot softer compared to something like an oxy-acetylene flame. There’s no actual hot spot just off the tip of the nozzle, so glare from the flame is a lot less aggressive on your eyes. So you see I’m just wearing clear goggles.”

    Pressurized bottles containing acetylene are dangerous and inconvenient. Their use is banned in locations where gas leakage could be too risky. And the hot oxyacetylene flame requires extra care when working with sensitive metals such as aluminium.

    Steven Baines, a specialist in materials and joining, and the TWI/SafeFlame Project Coordinator, said: “We have high temperature, high velocity, which can melt the workpiece very quickly, and that’s one of the principle downsides.”

    Hydrogen-based flame is more gentle, and cleaner too, because it only produces water when it burns.

    Nick Ludford, a materials scientist with TWI, said that compared to acetylene gas, they anticipate that the cost of the gas in their new unit would be at least 20 times cheaper than acetylene – because of the absence of expenses like gas storage, insurance, and transport.

    Small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to assess these advantages in the near future when the technology is expected to become commercially available.

    Right now, the prototype electrolyzer system is being thoroughly tested by welding professionals in the UK.

    Rory Olney said: “One of the main benefits of this torch, this system, is that the torch always remains cold because the flame, as it’s being produced, burns on the outside of the torch. So it’s cold to touch, and as I’m using it, the torch never gets hot. And when you turn the flame off at the [end] of operation, the torch will also remain cold afterwards, so you can put it down anywhere you want.”

    source euronews
     
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    British scientists discover reindeer eyes change colour from gold to blue over course of the seasons

    It is the first time a mammal’s eyes have ever been shown to change in this way




    Scientists have discovered that reindeer eyes change colour from gold to blue over the course of the year – the first time this has ever been shown to happen in mammals.

    A British-funded study has revealed that the animals are uniquely adapted to Arctic winters, which experience continuous daylight in summer and continuous darkness in winter.

    Like many other mammals, during the bright summers reindeer eyes reflect back most light through the retina – so they appear gold.

    A kind of enhanced night vision kicks in through winter, however, when a layer of tissue behind the retina becomes less reflective and appears blue.

    This increases the sensitivity of the reindeer eye to limited winter light – and is a vital tool in helping them survive the challenging Arctic conditions.

    “This gives them an advantage when it comes to spotting predators, which could save their lives,” said lead researcher Professor Glen Jeffery.

    “This is the first time a colour change of this kind has been shown in mammals,” he said. “By changing the colour of the TL in the eye reindeer have flexibility to cope better with the extreme differences between light levels in their habitat between seasons.”

    The study was conducted by Professor Jeffery and his colleagues at University College London, working in tandem with the University of Tromsø in Norway.

    They suggested that the colour change may be caused by pressure within the eyes. In winter the reindeers’ pupils exist in a permanent state of dilation, which prevents fluid in the eyeball from draining naturally.

    The pressure compresses the tissue behind the retina, they said, reducing the space between collagen in the tissue and therefore reflecting the shorter wavelengths of the blue light common in Arctic winters.


    Eyes from reindeer which died during the winter (left) and the summer (right) /Glen Jeffery

    Previous work from Professor Jeffery and Norwegian colleagues from Tromsø had shown that Arctic reindeer eyes can also see ultraviolet, which is abundant in Arctic light but invisible to humans, and that they use this to find food and see predators.

    The most recent study, published yesterday, was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – one of the seven members of the Government-backed Research Councils UK group.

    source independent
     
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    Scientist who invented glasses that help blind to ‘see’ wins £50,000 award

    Stephen Hicks said that the prize money will be used to develop the glasses further

    A scientist who has invented a pair of intelligent spectacles that can help the blind to “see” with simple visual images and descriptions of nearby signs and objects has won a major scientific prize.

    Stephen Hicks of the University of Oxford said that the £50,000 prize money will be used to develop the glasses further so that they become a cheap and effective way for partially-sighted people to navigate through public places.

    Computer-aided vision has in the past concentrated on the high-tech and expensive use of tiny silicon chips that can be implanted into the eye to provide a stronger visual signal to the light-sensitive cells of the retina.

    However, Dr Hicks' device does not involve invasive medical procedures and can be worn on the nose like ordinary glasses, making it simpler, cheaper and safer than chip implants.

    The smart glasses use tiny cameras and software to recognise nearby objects and to project them in a simple and intuitive way onto the lenses of a pair of glasses, which act like personal movie screens to the partially sighted.

    “My research aim is to improve functional vision for people with severely impaired sight. Over 300,000 people in the UK are registered as blind,” Dr Hicks said.

    “We are developing a pair of smart glasses that might be able to help people to use their remaining vision to see and avoid obstacles and enjoy increased independence,” he said.

    The idea is that the glasses would help the wearers to recognise everyday objects, such as a bus stop, doorway or personal item, and to identify them as such rather than just highlighting them as potential obstacles.

    Cameras embedded into the glasses can project recognisable images onto the glasses or, in the future, convert real text, such as words on a sign, timetable or a bus number, into audible speech, Dr Hicks said.

    “This is the beginning of a golden age for computer vision. We are seeing smart recognition technology in everything from cameras and mobile phones to self-driving cars,” Dr Hicks said.

    “The latest research enables computers not only to see single objects like faces and words but understand whole scenes,” he said.

    The Brian Mercer Innovation prize awarded to the smart spectacles is organised by the Royal Society.

    source independent
     
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    Oarfish Offer Chance to Study an Elusive Animal Long Thought a Monster


    The body of an 18-foot male oarfish was found in the waters off Santa Catalina Island in California last month. Five days later, a 14-foot female washed up 50 miles away.

    It was a big day for marine biologists: On Oct. 13, the body of an 18-foot oarfish was dragged from the water onto Santa Catalina Island off the California coast, presenting a rare opportunity for local scientists to study one of the world’s most elusive and awe-inspiring big fish.

    Five days later, it was a big day again: Another oarfish washed up 50 miles away, this one 14 feet with six-foot-long ovaries full of eggs.

    Pairs of oarfish have appeared within days of each other before, deepening the mystique that surrounds the animal. But the twin discoveries nevertheless sent a wave of excitement through a scientific community more used to reading about oarfish than handling them in the lab.

    “These are unpredictable fish,” said Milton Love, a research biologist at the Marine Science Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “And it’s hard to study unpredictable fish.”

    Oarfish, which are long and eel-like in appearance, can grow to stupendous lengths — though ancient rumors of 55-foot specimens are probably exaggerated — and have inspired tales of sea monsters since ancient times.

    Scientists know very little about them because they are “virtually never caught in nets or by hooks, and they’ve only been observed under water a handful of times,” Dr. Love said. “So you’re kind of left with these not random but rare events, and that’s the only way you can study them.”

    It is known that oarfish are notoriously bad swimmers; their long bodies remain still while their undulating fins handle most of the propulsion, yet they have apparently learned to avoid nets, Dr. Love said.

    Precisely what will be learned from the two newfound fish, which were dissected and divvied up among a handful of research institutions, remains to be seen. “You can only learn so much from a dead fish,” Dr. Love said. But by last week, a coterie of researchers, including a comparative ophthalmologist and a gill expert, were lining up to study them.

    Early observations revealed that the second fish, found in Oceanside, was apparently ready to spawn. “There were probably hundreds of thousands of eggs in those ovaries,” said H. J. Walker, the marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who extracted the eggs. Its stomach was nearly empty, supporting the theory that a strong current, possibly the northeast-flowing Kuroshio, had carried it and the other oarfish, a male, away from their preferred environment and food sources.

    A variety of parasites, including large larval tapeworms and a spiny-headed worm, were found in the intestines of the male, potentially giving a clue about where these particular oarfish lived and fed. Their species, Regalecus russelii, is most populous in the Western Pacific.

    Oarfish fans noted with excitement that the male was missing some of the posterior part of its body, colloquially known as the tail. Tyson Roberts, an ichthyologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who is widely regarded as the world’s leading oarfish expert, has long hypothesized that oarfish can jettison sections of their bodies below the abdomen, much the way lizards can shed their tails.

    As the world’s largest bony fish, oarfish have no known natural predator, so unlike with lizards, any shedding of the body is probably not done in self-defense, Dr. Roberts said. Such behavior is more likely meant to make swimming more efficient, among other reasons. “There may also be energetic benefits in shedding the posterior part of the body if it does not have much survival value, as apparently is the case in oarfishes,” he added.

    Even oarfish experts disagree on some basic facts. Most refer to them as deep-sea creatures, contending that they live 500 to 1,000 feet below the surface. Dr. Roberts says that is not so.

    “Mostly they spend their time quite near the surface, suspended vertically with their heads up, just passively floating,” said Dr. Roberts who championed the idea that there was more than one species of oarfish. He also believes that they have the capacity to change gender. “It may be that all individuals pass through a stage in which they are males and then pass through a stage in which they’re females,” he said.

    Just how deep the oarfish resides may become clearer in the coming months as researchers study the eyes of the new specimens, possibly learning whether they are designed to see in the low light of the deep ocean. “There’s not much information on the oarfish eye, which is unusually large,” Dr. Walker said.

    At California State University, Fullerton, Misty Paig-Tran, a biomechanist, will use CT scans to make a three-dimensional model of the female specimen, most of which she now possesses (the head will soon be delivered to Dr. Walker). Her preliminary X-rays gave researchers a closer look at the structures that support the dorsal fin, which may help explain the animal’s unusual way of swimming.

    Oarfish have been a source of fascination for centuries. With long bodies, toothless jaws and giant red dorsal fins that protrude from their heads, they are often mistaken for monsters. “Most biologists will tell you it probably is the species responsible for the sea serpent legend,” Dr. Walker said.

    An ancient Japanese myth holds that washed-up oarfish are a sign of an impending earthquake, a theory that regained popularity after about 20 oarfish beached themselves in Japan before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In Japan, the oarfish is known as ryugu no tsukai, or “messenger from the sea god’s palace.”

    In California, the one-two arrival of the latest oarfish brought feverish speculation that an earthquake was imminent. But researchers said there was little science behind the myth. “If something about tectonic movement is killing these fish, why aren’t the other fish in the environment doing the same thing?” Dr. Love said.

    The Catalina specimen might still be under water had Jasmine Santana, 26, a marine science instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, not spotted it about 15 feet down while snorkeling on her day off. “I recognized it because my colleague had shown me pictures of it,” she said. After dragging the fish to land, she and some of her co-workers placed it on ice in a ditch outside the institute.

    “We wanted the kids to see it,” said Jeff Chace, a program director at the institute. “We dissected it on the Wednesday after we found it, then packed up all the organs, tissue samples, skin samples and eyeball samples and sent them off to various institutions.” Dr. Chace has put the rest of the carcass in deep freeze until he can find someone who can clean and mount the skeleton.

    source nytimes
     
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    Driven to distraction: Have we lost the ability to focus on a single task?

    Daniel Goleman thinks so. Here, the bestselling science writer argues that we've become a species crippled by distraction and looks at new techniques to help wean children – and adults - off their phones and consoles



    The little girl's head only came up to her mother's waist as she hugged her mum, and held on fiercely as they rode a ferry to a holiday island. The mother, though, didn't respond to her, or even seem to notice: she was absorbed in her iPad all the while.

    There was a reprise a few minutes later, as I was getting into a shared taxi van with nine female students who that night were journeying to a weekend getaway. Within a minute of taking their seats in the dark van, dim lights flicked on as every one of the women checked an iPhone or tablet. Desultory conversations sputtered along while they texted or scrolled through Facebook. But mostly there was silence.

    The indifference of that mother, and the silence among the students, are symptoms of how technology captures our attention and disrupts our connections. In 2006, the word 'pizzled' entered our lexicon; a combination of puzzled and pissed, it captured the feeling people had when the person they were with whipped out their BlackBerry and started talking to someone else. Back then people felt hurt and indignant in such moments.

    Today it's the norm. Teens, the vanguard of our future, are the epicentre. In the early years of this decade their text message monthly count soared to 3,417, double the number just a few years earlier. Meanwhile their time on the phone dropped. The average American teen gets and sends more than a hundred texts a day, about 10 every waking hour. I've seen a kid texting while he rode his bike.

    A friend reports, "I visited some cousins in New Jersey recently and their kids had every electronic gadget known to man. All I ever saw were the tops of their heads. They were constantly checking their iPhones for who had texted them, what had updated on Facebook, or they were lost in some video game. They're totally unaware of what's happening around them and clueless how to interact with someone for any length of time."

    Today's children are growing up in a new reality, one where they are attuning more to machines and less to people than has ever been true in human history. That's troubling for several reasons. For one, the social and emotional circuitry of a child's brain learns from contact and conversation with everyone it encounters over the course of a day. These interactions mould brain circuitry; the fewer hours spent with people – and the more staring at a digitised screen – portends deficits.

    Digital engagement comes at a cost in face time with real people – the medium where we learn to 'read' non-verbals. The new crop of natives in this digital world may be adroit at the keyboard, but they can be all thumbs when it comes to reading behaviour face-to-face, in real time – particularly in sensing the dismay of others when they stop to read a text in the middle of talking with them.

    A college student observes the loneliness and isolation that goes along with living in a virtual world of tweets, status updates and "posting pictures of my dinner". He notes that his classmates are losing their ability for conversation, let alone the soul-searching discussions that can enrich the college years. And, he says, "no birthday, concert, hang-out session, or party can be enjoyed without taking the time to distance yourself from what you are doing" to make sure that those in your digital world know instantly how much fun you are having.

    Then there are the basics of attention, the cognitive muscle that lets us follow a story, see a task through to the end, learn, or create.

    In some ways, as we'll see, the endless hours young people spend staring at electronic gadgets may help them acquire specific cognitive skills. But there are concerns and questions about how those same hours may lead to deficits in core mental skills.

    An eighth-grade teacher tells me that for many years she has had successive classes of students read the same book, Edith Hamilton's Mythology. Her students have loved it – until five years or so ago. "I started to see kids not so excited – even high-achieving groups could not get engaged with it," she told me. "They say the reading is too hard; the sentences are too complicated; it takes a long time to read a page."

    She wonders if perhaps her students' ability to read has been somehow compromised by the short, choppy messages they get in texts. One student confessed he'd spent two thousand hours in the past year playing video games. She adds, "It's hard to teach comma rules when you are competing with World of WarCraft."

    At the extremes, Taiwan, Korea, and other Asian countries see internet addiction – to gaming, social media, virtual realities – among the youth as a national health crisis, isolating the young. Around 8 per cent of American gamers between ages eight and 18 seem to meet psychiatry's diagnostic criteria for addiction; brain studies reveal changes in their neural reward system while they game that are akin to those found in alcoholics and drug abusers.

    Occasional horror stories tell of addicted gamers who sleep all day and game all night, rarely stop to eat or clean themselves, and even get violent when family members try to stop them.

    Rapport demands joint attention – mutual focus. Our need to make an effort to have such human moments has never been greater, given the ocean of distractions we all navigate daily.

    Then there are the costs of attention decline among adults. In Mexico, an advertising rep for a large radio network complains, "A few years ago you could make a five-minute video for your presentation at an ad agency. Today you have to keep it to a minute and a half. If you don't grab them by then, everyone starts checking for messages."

    A college professor who teaches film tells me he's reading a biography of one of his heroes, the legendary French director François Truffaut. But, he finds, "I can't read more than two pages at a stretch. I get this overwhelming urge to go online and see if I have a new email. I think I'm losing my ability to sustain concentration on anything serious."

    The inability to resist checking email or Facebook rather than focus on the person talking to us leads to what the sociologist Erving Goffman, a masterful observer of social interaction, called an 'away', a gesture that tells another person "I'm not interested" in what's going on here and now.

    At the third All Things D(igital) conference back in 2005, the hosts unplugged the Wi-Fi in the main ballroom because of the glow from laptop screens, indicating that those in the audience were not glued to the action onstage. They were away, in a state, as one participant put it, of "continuous partial attention", a mental blurriness induced by an overload of information inputs from the speakers, the other people in the room, and what they were doing on their laptops. To battle such partial focus today, some Silicon Valley workplaces have banned laptops, mobile phones, and other digital tools during meetings.

    After not checking her mobile for a while, a publishing executive confesses she gets "a jangly feeling. You miss that hit you get when there's a text. You know it's not right to check your phone when you're with someone, but it's addictive." So she and her husband have a pact: "When we get home from work we put our phones in a drawer. If it's in front of me I get anxious; I've just got to check it. But now we try to be more present for each other. We talk."

    Our focus continually fights distractions, both inner and outer. The question is, what are our distractors costing us? An executive at a financial firm tells me, "When I notice that my mind has been somewhere else during a meeting, I wonder what opportunities I've been missing right here."

    Patients are telling a doctor I know that they are "self-medicating" with drugs for attention deficit disorder or narcolepsy to keep up with their work. A lawyer tells him, "If I didn't take this, I couldn't read contracts". Once patients needed a diagnosis for such prescriptions; now, for many, those medications have become routine performance enhancers.

    Growing numbers of teenagers are faking symptoms of attention deficit to get prescriptions for stimulants, a chemical route to attentiveness. And Tony Schwartz, a consultant who coaches leaders on how to best manage their energy, tells me, "We get people to become more aware of how they use attention – which is always poorly. Attention is now the number-one issue on the minds of our clients."

    The onslaught of incoming data leads to sloppy short-cuts, like triaging email by heading, skipping much of voicemails, skimming messages and memos. It's not just that we've developed habits of attention that make us less effective, but that the weight of messages leaves us too little time simply to reflect on what they really mean. All of this was foreseen way back in 1977 by the Nobel-winning economist Herbert Simon. Writing about the coming information-rich world, he warned that what information consumes is "the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."

    Simon says 'pay attention': How kids can be taught to focus

    The pink pigs won out over the purple donkeys, white tigers and yellow doggies among the second-graders in room 302, the day I visited PS 112, an early elementary school huddled next to the FDR Expressway in New York City's Spanish Harlem. With their favourite little stuffed animal in hand, each child found a place to lie down, and placed the animal on their belly. Then they listened to a taped voice leading them through some relaxing stretches and deep belly breathing while they counted "one, two, three" to themselves on each inhalation and exhalation.

    The daily session, one of the classroom's co-teachers Emily Hoaldridge told me, makes the children more focused and calm through the rest of the school day. I found that all the more remarkable when I learnt that half these second-graders had special needs ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to the autism spectrum. The fragility of that calm clarity was brought home once, when scheduling glitches led to them skipping the session. "They couldn't sit still – they were all over the place," she told me.

    Special problems aside, the young (like just about everyone else) seem ever-more distracted from the people around them and from their schoolwork by the enticements of technology, as their ability to pay attention faces a barrage of texts, updates, Instagrams and the like. That onslaught impacts the brain's prefrontal circuitry for managing attention, neuronal networks that develop from birth onward into the twenties.

    The more time kids spend sustaining attention and resisting distraction, the more connected and extensive those circuits grow. By the same token, the more often they give in to the temptations of their tech toys – or other distractions – the less so.

    The benefits of a healthy attention circuitry were highlighted in a 2011 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, of children in New Zealand who were rigorously tested during their elementary school year for 'cognitive control' – the technical name for being able to ignore that enticing text or video game and do your homework first. When the 1,037 students (every child born in the city of Dunedin over a 12-month stretch) were tracked down in their early thirties, their childhood level of cognitive control predicted their adult financial success and their health better than did their IQ or the wealth of their family of origin.

    In August of this year, a Stanford study of American students reported the same effect. Thousands of eighth-grade boys were evaluated by their teachers on proxies for a lack of cognitive control, like being disruptive in class, inattention, and not finishing their homework. The fewer such problems, the higher was their income in their mid- twenties. Against expectation, the eighth grader's achievement test scores did not correlate with their later financial status (the one exception was for the small sub-group that earnt a graduate degree).

    The good news from the New Zealand data: those children whose cognitive control improved during their childhood years fared as well as children who had high levels all along. This argues for more efforts to help kids build their brain's attention muscle.

    The daily dose of breathing buddies at PS 112 represents one way to do that. Brain studies of exercises like this simple reminder to bring attention back to a single, chosen focus show that the more this mental movement gets repeated, the stronger the circuitry for cognitive control becomes. This not only makes children better able to focus attention, but also more adept at calming down, key facets of 'learning readiness' that share space in the prefrontal cortex.

    Then there's another approach, modelling a desired behaviour, a gambit favoured on the Sesame Street show that works powerfully for toddlers. Take a clip where Cookie Monster learns to nibble. Alan starts a cookie connoisseur club in his store on Sesame Street, and of course Cookie Monster wants to eat all the cookies immediately. He can't restrain his urge to gobble, and fails to follow club rules to check a cookie for imperfections and smell it before taking just a nibble.

    Only when Alan teaches him to remember that if he doesn't gobble the cookie on the spot he will get to eat more of them later does Cookie Monster gain the requisite self-control. That mental stratagem was suggested to the writers of Sesame Street by none other than Walter Mischel, the Columbia University psychologist who four decades ago developed the near-legendary 'Marshmallow test', an assessment of cognitive control in which four year olds are given a choice between one marshmallow now or two if they can hold out and wait several minutes.

    Finally, let's not give up on video games; after all, kids can focus on them for hours on end. To be sure, researchers find the present state of the art, like the Tomb Raider genre, yields a mix of effects good and bad. Youngsters who spend endless hours engrossed in virtual combat enhance the brain skill of vigilance needed in, say, air traffic controllers – but also instantly assume the kid who bumped into them in the hallway bears a grudge against them.

    But a team of scientists and game designers at the University of Wisconsin are building video games that enhance the better lessons. Tenacity, in its beta version at present, is a video game where tweens and teens build concentration by tapping an iPad screen every time they breathe out, and twice on the fifth breath, for a visual reward like flowers blooming in a desert – and it gets progressively harder as they get better. It may sound a bit tame, but when my grandchildren, ages seven to 14, tried it, they wanted to play it again. The scientists behind the game know from their research on attention that the more hours spent playing Tenacity, the bigger the boost in the circuitry for focus and cognitive control.

    Then there are low-tech, high-touch methods like the game Simon Says, which you can play with your favourite pre-schooler. In case you don't remember, in Simon Says children imitate a movement made by the leader – but are supposed to squelch their impulse to move if the leader fails to say "Simon Says" as she makes the motion. It's yet another workout for the prefrontal cortex.

    The New Zealand research team concluded that teaching school children ways to boost their cognitive control would have several kinds of pay-back for society: less crime, a more healthy populace, and an upward shift in a nation's economy.

    James Heckman, the Nobel-winning economist at the University of Chicago, has been marshalling such evidence for years, arguing that how well children can manage themselves, as displayed by persistence toward their goals and other such non-academic skills, predicts their life outcome apart from their IQ. And since, unlike IQ, these life skills can be enhanced by the right education, we would benefit from teaching our children well. Simon Says...

    'Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence' by Daniel Goleman is out now (£18.99, Bloomsbury). To order a copy for the special price of £14.99, visit independentbooksdirect.co.uk.

    Driven to distraction: Dismayed by his own wandering attention span, Archie Bland took Daniel Goleman's advice on how to keep on task

    My idea for how to start this piece was to use Twitter as an index of just how easily distracted I am. So I found a website that told me when my first tweet was, with the intention of dividing my total number of messages by the number of days I've been a user, and establishing just how many times a day I'm breaking off from whatever I should be concentrating on to craft an almost certainly insignificant message of 140 characters or less.

    That was the idea, anyway. But then when this website showed me my earliest tweets I found myself mildly aghast and fascinated by the tone I struck four years ago, and how it differs from the way I sound today. I scrolled through a few of these messages, my initial purpose bustled off my mind's tiny stage, and clicked on a link to a trivial but faintly amusing exchange I'd been having with a former colleague back in 2009.

    I'm fond of that colleague but haven't seen him in a while, so I clicked on his username to see what he's up to today. Then I saw a link to something interesting in his feed and clicked on that, opening it in a new browser tab, my ninth of the day at 11 minutes past nine in the morning. I thought of someone else who might find the same thing interesting and put it in an email to her. In doing so I came across two unopened emails that needed dealing with, and sent quick replies to each of them. And then I realised I had failed to note the date of that first tweet.

    That whole process only took three minutes, and now that I'm back with my mind on the task at hand, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. I would normally barely notice it as a setback. But to catalogue it thus – and this without the myriad tiny mental flares that go off in all directions between each of those tentpole distractions – is deeply sobering. I would say shaming, even, if I didn't know that an awful lot of other people do exactly the same thing. (My computer just made a sound, by the way, to alert me to a message that I've just been sent in Gmail Chat. Ordinarily, I would flip to that window right away and see what it said. But in the circumstances, I'm going to ignore it.)

    Some aspect of this will (God, I hope it will, anyway) ring a bell with most people who spend their working days flipping between different tasks, nominally because they need to keep all the balls in the air, but probably in truth because the day seems to pass more quickly with a series of built-in excuses for focus to wander. Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus, is clear about the folly of this approach, pointing out that it can take as much as 10 or 15 minutes to regain proper concentration on each of those pieces of work. The problem, it seems indisputable, has been terribly exacerbated by the internet age.

    Goleman quotes Martin Heidegger, warning presciently in the 1950s against a "tide of technological revolution" that might "so captivate, bewitch, dazzle and beguile man that calculative thinking may some day come to be ... the only way of thinking." Goleman elaborates on this warning about the threat to "meditative thinking": "the more distracted we are, the more shallow our reflections," he writes. "Likewise, the shorter our reflections, the more trivial they are likely to be. Heidegger, were he alive today, would be horrified if asked to tweet."

    I recognise all of this, and the cost to my own efficiency and the quality of my work, not Heidegger-like at the best of times. Accordingly, I downloaded a set of audio exercises narrated by Goleman. They have an efficient, business-like title, 'Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence', but the recordings are, essentially, meditations. I am not one of life's natural meditators, but I gave it a go all the same.

    There are five exercises. Each one is designed to increase 'mindfulness': the ability to quickly detect when your thoughts are wandering, arrest the process, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. You might do this by concentrating intently on how you breathe, or – rather more elliptically, it must be said – by imagining your heart filling with love, and then sending that love out into the world.

    I found the effect most striking when Goleman's soothing, gravelly voice asked me to pay close attention to each of my senses in turn – and, in particular, to try to concentrate not on my mental reactions to a particular sound, but to the process of hearing that sound in itself. It's incredibly difficult, this, when our environment trains us by necessity to make the connection from sensory experience to interpretative meaning at lightning speed, and I didn't have much luck, expending too much energy on thinking about not thinking.

    But even trying it a few times, and fumbling occasionally towards a moment of true mental rest, I could see how powerful a technique it could be if you trained yourself in it for months or years – and how effectively it could translate to your day-to-day life, providing you with a helpful elasticated tether to bring you away from distraction and back to what matters. I bet Zen masters never miss a deadline.

    Did even such minimal practice make a difference to my efficiency in writing this piece? Actually, I think it might have, though I would also give some of the credit to my initial Twitter lapse and the small explosion of self-loathing that it produced: I made a pact with myself to record in the piece any further such lapses, and the prospect of public shame has kept them to a minimum. (In two hours I wrote three quick emails, answered the phone once, and in a moment of total mental absence watched a video of a child in a Halloween costume that made him look like a stick man. I know that doesn't sound great, but honestly, by my standards it's positively monkish.)

    If you want to get better at this, even the simple mental habit of consciously hauling your attention back any time you notice it wandering is a powerful tool. I will certainly try to do so. I did eventually work it out, by the way, and I tweet a truly horrifying average of 11 times a day; if that comes down a bit, you will know I have succeeded.

    source independent
     
    EuroMode

    EuroMode

    Active Member
    Global Warming and the Ideology of Anthropogenic (Human Caused) Climate Change

    The purpose of this work is to provide an investigation into the ideology of anthropogenic (human caused) climate change.

    It has been written with the confidence that further research within the public, as well as the academic realm is required. Furthermore, the investigative strategy incorporated in this paper serves to provide a starting place for additional investigation. Therefore, the foundational reason for this work is to empower the understanding of the readership.

    “We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it…And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control.” John F. Kennedy
    To initiate an evidentiary inquiry into geopolitical decision making, one must first understand the causal relations that frame how a scientific issue is presented, addressed and subsequently dismissed. Of importance, is the distinction between sound science and methods motivated by political self interest. In the case of the former, the observer maintains a qualitative standard founded upon the premise that such an investigation will enhance the comprehensive intelligence within their respective discipline. In the case of the latter, the observer upholds a personal standard founded upon the ideology that this method will satisfy their self-interest and accelerate their ascendance to academic prominence. Thus, to value the integrity of the former method, the current directive must be to inspire a holistic understanding within the readership, as well as to identify the inconsistencies that arise within the discourse pertaining to anthropogenic climate change.

    To further clarify, the guiding principals and intent of this work is to transform power. Since the prevailing dominant discourse derives its influence through maintaining ignorance, a praxis grounded upon intellectual empowerment is the most effective use of this knowledge. This investigation begins with an analysis of inconsistencies documented by official sources.

    First to be examined is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is the prerogative of NASA to research and identify causal forces within Earth’s solar system. NASA identifies multivariate concerns over uncertainties pertaining to potential causal forces influencing climate change. “There’s a great deal that we don’t know about the future of Earth’s climate and how climate change will affect humans”, including the impacts of solar irradiance, aerosols/dust/smoke, clouds, the carbon cycle, ocean circulation, precipitation and sea level rise (NASA 2013). As illustrated by researcher Victor Herrera of the Institute of Geophysics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, this statement by NASA is critical for “the models and forecasts of the UN IPCC are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity” (Morano 2008, pg 4). To omit such an influential contributor to climate change as the sun would inherently bias statistical models in favour of anthropogenic theorizing. NASA’s admission is important for it sets the groundwork for a genuine understanding on climate change.

    A secondary piece of pertinent evidence is a report issued in 2012 by the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service. In this report, Colin Morice et al. state: “this model cannot take into account structural uncertainties arising from data set construction methodologies. It is clear that a full description of uncertainties in near-surface temperature, including those uncertainties arising from differing methodologies, requires that independent studies of near-surface temperatures should be maintained” (Morice, 2012, pg 5). This is important for the scientists involved clearly state the limitations of their chosen methodology, ie the HADCRUT4 data set, and recommend that independent research be conducted to affirm their findings.

    David Rose, reporting for the UK’s Daily Mail, incorporated the graphs from this study into an article he wrote entitled Global Warming Stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report. Rose also interviews a number of climate scientists who express uncertainty regarding the accuracy of climate modeling.

    These interviews include “Professor Phil Jones, [former] director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia…[who] admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun” (Rose 2012). Professor Phil Jones is the same individual “who found himself the centre of the ‘Climategate’ scandal over leaked emails..” (Rose 2012).

    In these emails, Jones, in association with Michael Mann and other collaborators, communicate their intention to censor academic papers via intervening in the IPCC peer review process, as well as manipulate statistical data to conform to inaccurate climate forecast models. In a 2009 email correspondence between Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann, Trenberth states: “the fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t… Our observing system is inadequate” (Global Research 2009). As identified in the introduction, the actions of Jones and Mann perfectly illustrate the ideal of scientists working for academic self interest and not for the benefit of scientific understanding.

    Arising from this case of intellectual manipulation is collateral damage. The scientific discipline of climate change and the severe ways upon which human beings are impacted by it, are dismissed in favour of the expert management of human populations. In the dominant discourse, additional issues such as globalization, corporatism, effective waste management, public health impacts, fresh water scarcity and natural resource privatization are often conveniently omitted. This practice of academic self interest attempts to discredit legitimate science while effectively empowering an environment of division, disinformation and subsequently, ignorance. It is within such an environment that opportunists thrive, pseudo-scientists whose rhetorical machinations frame the discourse of public opinion.

    “[Thus it has become the case that] our government’s science and technology policy is now guided by uniformed and emotion-driven public opinion rather than by sound scientific advice. Unfortunately, this public opinion is controlled by the media, a group of scientific illiterates drunk with power, heavily influenced by irrelevant political ideologies, and so misguided as to believe that they are more capable than the scientific community of making scientific decisions” (Cohen 1984, pg 59).
    A classic example, is Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former United States vice president Al Gore. A significant proponent of anthropogenic climate change, Gore also happens to be a major benefactor (The Telegraph). According to the Capital Research Centre’s publication Foundation Watch, “along with Gore, the co-founder of GIM [Generation Investment Management] is former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson…[In September 2006] Goldman Sachs bought 10% of CCX [Chicago Climate Exchange] shares for $23 million. CCX owns half of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), Europe’s largest carbon trading company…” (Barnes 2007, pg 4). This sale occurred the same year Al Gore released the film An Inconvenient Truth, which claims both a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, as well as pushing the need to offset carbon emissions via green investments. (Freeman 2007, pg 29). In fact, the Executive Intelligence Review reports that “Al Gore spoke at the May 2005 INCR [Investors Network on Climate Risk] Investors Summit at the United Nations, in his capacity as Chairman of his Generation Investment Management. He called for following the model of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which started up in 2005. Monetize emissions; trade them; reduce them, was Gore’s mantra” (Freeman 2007, pg 29).

    Upon further analysis, Foundation Watch affirms that “like CCX, the European Climate Exchange has about 80 member companies, including Barclays, BP, Calyon, E.ON UK, Endesa, Fortis, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Shell, and ECX has contracted with the European Union to further develop a future market in carbon trading” (Barnes 2007, pg 4). It is apparent that several significant benefactors are among the most powerful captains of banking, business and industry. The benefits they incur via the successful management of government policy and mainstream environmental activism is enormous and therein is the real inconvenient truth.

    Therefore it is evident that the intentional manipulation of a scientific subject, can be designed to both generate a public reaction, as well as to benefit private interests. However, the real danger is when rhetorical mechanisms infiltrate the common sense of a particular population and influences that populations’ moral consciousness. When rhetoric, and those who employ it, can establish a jurisdiction of unquestionable authority, then it becomes a god, which through its own machinations, is capable of empowering its skillful technicians and silencing logical inquiry. The population, unaware of an intellectual coup d’etat, become willful participants in their own subjugation. Through their acquiescence to a society that abandons formative critical analysis and evidentiary investigation, the population voluntarily reinforces this invisible intellectual prison.

    What develops next, is a form of group mentality. When robbed of the proper utilization of the reasoning faculty, a person surrenders to a set of prevailing assumptions, which in this case are reinforced by the rhetorical mechanisms operating in that society. “In fact, people can be so attached to ‘consensus reality’ that its assumptions and predictions override contradictory evidence. When speakers encounter a situation in which people or events do not fit the categories provided by their model of reality, they are more likely to describe those people or event to make them “fit” the model rather than change or revise the model itself” (Penelope 1990, pg 37). What this means is that even when a circumstance arises which exposes that person to an alternative perspective on reality, no matter how grounded in evidentiary logic, that individual will instinctively re-frame or reject that knowledge.

    Knowledge, and its effective application, is power. Thus, the willful ignorance of the public creates the opportunity for technocratic domination, i.e., those with superior knowledge make unquestionable decisions that affirm their own superiority (Carson 2002, pg 12-13). This form of expert management arises and is attributed to the demand for it. This is a causal relationship. First, the public generates an expressed need for governance. Second, this need influences the nature and direction of the outcome. Without the demand, governance would not be delivered. Consequently, an important inquiry to raise at this juncture would be: is the current public’s expressed need also managed to support the prevailing political/economic status quo? In pursuit of this answer, the following analysis is offered.

    It would seem that men and women need a common motivation, namely a common adversary against whom they can organize themselves and act together…[to] bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose (Schneider 1991, pg 70).

    In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill…All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself (Schneider 1991, pg 75).

    This report entitled The First Global Revolution, was published by the Club of Rome in 1991. According to their website, “the Club of Rome is a non-profit organisation, independent of any political, ideological or religious interests. Its essential mission is to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the general public” (Club of Rome). It appears, that one of these most important private decision makers, is none other than Al Gore, who holds a membership with the Club of Rome (ABC News 2007).

    Throughout this evidentiary inquiry into anthropogenic climate change, the following connections have been witnessed:

    1) the statistical manipulation and censorship of data by leading anthropogenic climate scientists [Phil Jones, Michael Mann],

    2) the intrinsic bias towards anthropogenic causal forces inherent in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast models [Herrera, detailing omission of solar activity],

    3) the admission of systemic uncertainties inherent in climate forecast methodologies [UK National Weather Service],

    4) the widespread unknown variables identified by NASA [solar irradiance, aerosols/dust/smoke, clouds, the carbon cycle, ocean circulation, precipitation and sea level rise], 5) the corporate, industrial and banking interests behind major proponents of anthropogenic climate change [Barclays, BP, Endesa, Fortis, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley et al], and

    6) the calculated ideological premise that human beings are the source of all environmental problems and thus an enemy to humanity itself [Club of Rome]. Subsequently, the consequences of this prevailing worldview must be addressed.

    In doing so, it is important to understand that this prevailing discourse arises primarily from a position of advanced financial capital and influence. Hence, its intentional dissemination by public, private and corporate actors serve to further promulgate its sphere of influence (Schneider 1991, pg 157). The major tenets of this worldview propose limitations on human energy consumption, as well as restrictions on activities that generate carbon output. The expressed bias inherent in how anthropogenic climate change is presented to the public is that of a blaming the victim modality, i.e., that the public must bear the responsibility of the corporate/military/industrial sector.

    According to Professor Delgado Domingos of the Numerical Weather Forecast group, “creating an ideology pegged to carbon dioxide is a dangerous nonsense…The present alarm on climate change is an instrument of social control, a pretext for major businesses and political battle. It became an ideology, which is concerning” (Morano 2012, pg 5). Thus, when driving at the heart of this manipulation, it becomes clear that its overarching purpose is not to manifest a global environmental equilibrium, but in fact to re-enforce the predominant political/economic status quo.

    This is further illustrated by the aforementioned report by the Club of Rome. Authors Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider state: “the global nature as well as the seriousness of the environmental crisis, especially that of earth-warming, indicates the need for a coherent and comprehensive attack at the international level and at the level of the United Nations” (Schneider 1991, pg 99). They continue: “in addition, we propose the organization, possibly under the auspices of the Environmental Security Council, of regular meetings of industrial leaders, bankers and government officials from the five continents. These Global Development Rounds, envisaged as being somewhat similar to the Tariff Rounds of GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; a precursor to the World Trade Organization], would discuss the need to harmonize competition and cooperation in the light of environmental constraints” (Schneider 1991, pg 100).

    Essentially, the authors are calling for an agreement among prominent political, economic and financial institutions, to facilitate the centralization of collaborative decision making. This citation is also an example of the discourse “administrative rationalism [which] may be defined as the problem-solving discourse which emphasizes the role of the expert rather than the citizen or producer/consumer in social problem solving, and which stresses social relationships of hierarchy rather than equality or competition” (Dryzek 2005, pg 75). Hence, the prevailing dominion of international economic powers is strengthened via this form of environmentalism, and anthropogenic climatology, in the manner it has been presented to the public, inculcates an environment of oppression.

    A major mechanism by which this form of expert management is being implemented around the world is the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, also known as ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability. As previously identified, there is a causal relationship between the public’s demand for governance and its delivery. Subsequently, an important question to consider is: can an international secretariat that identifies itself as “…a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries…[that] have built a global sustainability network of more than 1,000 local governments…”, influence the public’s demand for this form of governance (ICLEI 2013)?

    According to the Capital Research Centre report ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the answer is an affirmative. The author David Libardoni states: “…the group [ICLEI] is the product of a United Nations conference: the U.N. World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future…[Bolstered by ICLEI's delivery system,] ambitious local politicians around the world are using ICLEI as an international platform that allows them to build their careers and quickly network with one another on environmental issues” (Libardoni 2008, pg 2).

    It appears that politicians willing to become proponents of anthropogenic climate change, as well as ICLEI itself, stand to benefit both financially and politically through the collaborative success of this ideology. For in addition to the sliding-scale membership fees charged to local municipalities (calculated by population size), “over the past 11 years [2008 statistic], ICLEI has received between $250,000 and $1,500,000 annually in EPA grants to fund its CCP [Cities for Climate Protection] Campaign and emissions analysis software. In 2006, it reported $904,000 in governmental grants (out of $3.3 million in total revenue) on its IRS 990 tax form…” (Libardoni 2008, pg 3). In addition to these grants, “in 1997, the Open Society gave ICLEI a $2,147,415 grant to support its Local Agenda 21 Project, also sometimes known as Communities 21…More recently, ICLEI has received major contributions from the left-leaning Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($650,000 in March 2008, $525,000 in 2006), the Surdna Foundation ($200,000 in 2006), the Kendall Foundation ($150,000 in 2007) and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation ($100,000 in 2007)” (Libardoni 2008, pg 3). Thus, in light of this evidence gathered concerning the European Climate Exchange, as well as the financial benefits accrued by ICLEI, it becomes readily apparent that the discipline of anthropogenic climatology in concert with private self-interest can in praxis become an ideology of corporatism, advanced financial capital and multinational industry.

    It is precisely this ideology that is demonstrated by the New Brunswick provincial government and in particular, the Department of Environment and Local Government. By way of illustration, the following select objectives from the chapter Action Plan Milestones derived from the department’s publication Action Plan for a New Local Governance System in New Brunswick, are identified:

    “Transfer the cost of service administration for Local Service Districts to those who receive the service, effective January 2012, by introducing amendments to the Municipalities Act” [Fall 2011] (New Brunswick 2011, pg 16).

    “Create a new community funding arrangement, replacing the Unconditional Grant, by introducing amendments to the Municipal Assistance Act” [Fall 2012] (New Brunswick 2011, pg 17).

    “Engage stakeholders in the development of community sustainability criteria and a self- assessment tool” [Spring 2013] (New Brunswick 2011, pg 18).

    “Implement community and municipal sustainability targets for the establishment and restructuring of Municipalities and Rural Communities” [Fall 2013] (New Brunswick 2011, pg 18).

    “Seek input from stakeholders on a framework for a new Local Governance Act as part of the policy development process” [Summer 2013] (New Brunswick 2011, pg 18).
    Regardless of the purpose, direction or intended result of the above provisions, the action plan milestones that the New Brunswick government is committing to are consistent with the discourse of administrative rationalism, as well as the designed sustainability criteria of ICLEI. To ground this proposition in evidentiary logic, the following comparison is provided by way of a citation from ICLEI Canada’s publication Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation (ICLEI Canada, pg 8):

    To further clarify this evident congruence between ICLEI’s Milestone Framework and New Brunswick’s Action Plan Milestones, “as outlined earlier, Canadian local governments should be familiar with the Milestone process, as it is also central to the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program offered in partnership by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and ICLEI” (ICLEI Canada, pg 6). Remarkably, this corresponds to the objectives outlined in the previously cited Club of Rome publication, The First Global Revolution: “it would be appropriate that the scheme [energy efficiency] be launched by the United Nations in association with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meterological Organization and Unesco [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization].

    A corollary would be the setting up in each country of an Energy Efficiency Council to supervise the operation on the national scale” (Schneider 1991, pg 99). In accord with this proposal ICLEI’s World Secretariat recently announced, “ICLEI and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are joining efforts in conducting a global survey on resource efficiency in cities with an objective to get a wide range of city level perspectives and understandings of local needs on resource efficiency.

    The global survey will run between March and May 2013 and will result in a final report planned for August 2013. The survey is conducted by a team of experts led by ICLEI’s World Secretariat in close collaboration with UNEP’s Built Environment Unit. The results will inform the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC)” (ICLEI World Secretariat 2013). Indeed, it is evident, that in the dominions of finance, politics and industry, multivariate international powers have aligned their objectives. This method of harmonization between international powers, by which prominence is consolidated and agreements are constituted, is known as globalization.

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, globalization is defined as “the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale [e.g. ICLEI]” (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2013).

    The concept of sustainability, disseminated and affirmed by previously identified proponents and benefactors of anthropogenic climate change, is “[a subject or practice being] able to be maintained at a certain rate or level: sustainable economic growth, [as well as] conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2013). These goals are consistent with the operational capacities of corporations active in the natural resource extraction industry, with several currently accruing a substantial profit via the European Climate Exchange [BP, Endesa, Shell, Goldman Sachs, Barclays] (Barnes 2007, pg 4).

    In addition, the previously cited ICLEI Canada publication, Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation, “..was made possible with the generous support of Natural Resources Canada: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Division (ICLEI Canada, pg 3). Now that ICLEI’s employed methodology (i.e. globalization) has been established, the next question of this evidentiary inquiry is the following: in relation to the intentional manipulation of the scientific discipline of anthropogenic climate change, are there additional methods that further the personal and/or private interests of another organization? To be addressed is the military industrial complex.

    A high-risk, high-reward endeavor, weather-modification offers a dilemma not unlike the splitting of the atom. While some segments of society will always be reluctant to examine controversial issues such as weather-modification, the tremendous military capabilities that could result from this field are ignored at our own peril. From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small-scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control, weather-modification offers the war fighter a wide-range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary (Celentano 1996, pg vi).

    In this 1996 United States Department of Defense research paper, Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025, authors Major Ronald J. Celentano et al. promulgate the importance, as well as (in their view) the opportunities intrinsic to the integration of weather modification technologies into conventional warfare. As noted in this report’s Executive Summary, “in 2025, US aerospace forces can ‘own the weather’ by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war-fighting applications. Such a capability offers the war fighter tools to shape the battlespace in ways never before possible. It provides opportunities to impact operations across the full spectrum of conflict and is pertinent to all possible futures” (Celentano 1996, pg vi).

    To accurately illustrate these proposed capabilities, Celentano et al chronologically incorporate Table 1: Operational Capabilities Matrix on the next page of their research paper. The following citation is this identical table, copied verbatim from this publication (SEE Celentano 1996, pg vii).

    Subsequently it becomes readily apparent that the United States Air Force, as well as the US Department of Defense, have an expressed interest in anthropogenic climate change. Their interest, is largely dependent on their ability to strategically profit from it. To affirm this analysis, Professor Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization states, “rarely acknowledged in the debate on global climate change, the world’s weather can now be modified as part of a new generation of sophisticated electromagnetic weapons. Both the US and Russia have developed capabilities to manipulate the climate for military use” (Chossudovsky 2004).

    This ideology of self-interest is consistent among all of the exclusive proponents of anthropogenic climate change identified in this investigation. Evident, within the operating methodology of each proponent, is a calculated benefit directly attributed to the successful dissemination of this incomplete and ‘debate settled’ ideology of anthropogenic climate change. Several of the prominent organizations cited are actively involved in the indoctrination of citizens, as well as strategically influencing government policy. Therefore, any remedy offered via this evidentiary inquiry must maintain, as its foundation, a qualitative standard pursued for the purpose of empowering public consciousness. It is integrity, not manipulation, deception, or disinformation that will achieve both an accurate understanding of climate causal forces as well as create an inclusive participatory process for affecting positive environmental change.

    Fortunately, there is a growing opposition to the claimed consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change as well as considerable numbers of scientists seeking to accurately understand climate causal forces. Reported by the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, in 2008 over six hundred fifty scientists expressed opposition to the claimed scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change (Morano 2008, pg 1).

    [According to this report:] “the following developments further secured 2008 as the year the ‘consensus’ collapsed. Russian scientists ‘rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming’. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a ‘considerable presence’ of scientific skeptics exists. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: ‘Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate’. India issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC ‘be called to account and cease its deceptive practices,’ and a canvass of more than 51, 000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is ‘settled’” (Morano 2008, pg 2).

    Upon evaluation of this Senate Committee’s report, in additional to the aforementioned statements by scientific sources, it can be surmised that any entity, scientific or otherwise, claiming a global consensus on anthropogenic climate change is doing so: a) falsely, and b) to further their own ideological agenda. The following lecture citation, by Dr. Taylor Gray, concurs with this open minded analysis of anthropogenic climate change: “the occurrence of ecosystems maintaining a state of dynamic equilibrium stipulates that the phenomena of climate change is a naturally occurring process. To identify climate change as a problem is exclusively the prerogative of human beings and their unwillingness to accept environmental factors that are beyond their control” (Gray 2013). With this understanding, morality when taken from a practical standpoint, is largely founded upon the availability of the essential ingredients required for life. According to Dr. Gray, “as a naturally occurring biogeochemical cycle, as well as playing the role of an important atmospheric component, carbon is essential for the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that constitute life. Thus, limiting carbon would place a limiting factor upon the potential for life” (Gray 2013).

    What is within the power of human beings, are the ways upon which we build an authentic global community; one founded upon compassion and awareness of the growing needs of environmentally disadvantaged peoples. For example, liberating immigration restrictions to Canada, would allow this country’s comparatively minor population-to-landmass representation (approximately thirty five million, out of a global population of over seven billion) to become proportional through the vitalization by peoples in need of a more hospitable environment. International solidarity based upon localized commodity/agricultural markets would decrease the privatization of arable land in developing countries, which in turn would advance international food security. The creation of empowered generations skilled in home-building, permaculture, holistic medicine and environmental science would limit international economic dependency and encourage healthy, inclusive and self-sufficient communities. However, before this can happen, the prevailing untruths within society must be addressed.

    The effective application of knowledge is powerful. And to provide a remedy to a public that willfully embraces convenient untruths is two-fold. To begin, the inculcation and transmission of ignorance must be replaced with a social/economic paradigm that supports continuous learning. To be clear, this would take the form of encouraging independent thought, critical analysis and informed opinion. This instrument of social advancement must have one and only one primary objective. That being the cooperative evolution of human consciousness.

    To achieve such a social mechanism the first remedy must be manifested in concert with the second, i.e., the systemic replacement of the conditions upon which material benefit is derived from intellectual manipulation. Effectively, this would mean organizing around a political/economic paradigm that did not foster an environment of exploitation. Conversely, the praxis of this new paradigm would be the encouragement of an informed and intellectually adept body politic.

    The success of this naturopathic remedy would arise organically from a psychologically healthy population. Upon this foundation intellectual creative power could create a holistic and inclusive political/economic paradigm. A public effectively self-immunized against ignorance brings with it the opportunity for unheralded philosophical and scientific evolution. In relation to governance and geopolitical decision making, the expressed public demand for it would end making psychological domination effectively irrelevant. Thus, when the conditions for freedom surround the human family, the only problem that remains is choice.

    On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right. Martin Luther King Jr.
    source globalresearch
     
    EuroMode

    EuroMode

    Active Member
    GMO and Morgellons Disease

    Since the Clinton administration made biotechnology “a strategic priority for U.S. government backing” (1), giant transnational agri-business concerns have aggressively taken over the global food chain by flooding it with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) without regard for the consequences to the earth or its inhabitants. This takeover not only has the potential for global economic devastation, but threatens the earth’s population with far-reaching health concerns as well. One health concern that seems to coincide with the GMO revolution is Morgellons disease. What if the advent of Morgellons disease has something to do with the ingestion of GMO foods?

    Morgellons Disease – What is it?

    Very little can be found regarding this disease. Originally, sufferers were told that their problem was imaginary. This was of little comfort to the people who were suffering.

    Morgellons Disease sufferers report strange, fiber-like material sticking out of sores or wounds that erupt on the skin. This is accompanied by painful, intense itching, that has been described as “an ever present sensation as if something is crawling under the skin.” (2)

    On May 18, 2006, KGW, a local news channel reporting out of the Oregon area published this story:

    Strange sickness: Mystery disease horror story (excerpt)

    [Dr. Drottar] The disabled family practice doctor felt like bugs were crawling under her skin.

    “If I fully tell people what has gone on with me medically, they think they’re in the twilight zone,” said Drottar.

    She woke up with the feeling that fluid was flowing just below her skin. Often black or blue hair like fibers protruded from her skin, she said.

    “I thought I had been exposed to asbestos. I thought I was having asbestos fibers come out of my skin. I was pulling long, thin, small hair-like fibers that were extremely sharp that could literally pierce through my finger nails,” Drottar said.

    In addition to the feeling of bugs and the fibers, Drottar also suffered from severe depression, chronic fatigue and a weakened immune system. As a result, she had to give up her family practice, Drottar said. (3)

    Here are some pictures of Morgellons lesions included in the KGW report:



    The Morgellons Research Foundation

    Fibers embedded in skin removed from facial lesion of three year old boy, 60x.



    morgellonsusa.com

    Photo of the fibrous structures that were in the skin of a Morgellons sufferer.

    Morgellons and GMO – the Link

    Little information has been revealed concerning the long-term health effects of GMO crops on humans or animals, and even less information can be had regarding research correlating Morgellons with GMO foods.

    This is suspicious right off the bat, because it would seem that there would be a natural curiosity regarding a link between Genetically Modified Organisms that people ingest regularly and inorganic fibers that protrude from a person’s skin.

    This would be right up a geneticist’s alley, and quite worthy of intensive research.

    So, why aren’t there a ton of published studies?

    Why is it so difficult finding anything related to this?

    Could it be that companies such as Monsanto have enough clout to effectively squash these stories?

    If they have enough clout to ruin countries by deceiving impoverished farmers into purchasing patented GMO seeds, and then take it a step further and force these poor people to purchase seeds year after year instead of harvesting their own, then they have enough clout to ask our more than willing corporate government to manipulate the press…again.

    According to Mike Stagman, PhD,

    “Genetic Engineering is a nightmare technology that has already caused MANY disease epidemics — documented but unpublicized.” (4)

    The following article by Whitley Strieber published on October 12, 2007, titled “Skin Disease May Be Linked to GM Food” concludes that the fibers taken from a Morgellons sufferer contain the same substance that is “used commercially to produce genetically-modified plants.”

    Skin Disease May Be Linked to GM Food
    12-Oct-2007

    Many people—and most physicians—have written off Morgellons disease as either a hoax or hypochondria. But now there is evidence that this mysterious disease may be REAL and related to GENETICALLY MODIFIED food!

    The skin of Morgellons victims oozes mysterious strands that have been identified as cellulose (which cannot be manufactured by the human body), and people have the sensation of things crawling beneath their skin. The first known case of Morgellons occurred in 2001, when Mary Leitao created a web site describing the disease, which had infected her young son. She named it Morgellons after a 17th century medical study in France that described the same symptoms.

    In the Sept. 15-21 issue of New Scientist magazine, Daniel Elkan describes a patient he calls “Steve Jackson,” who “for years” has “been finding tiny blue, red and black fibers growing in intensely itchy lesions on his skin.” He quotes Jackson as saying, “The fibers are like pliable plastic and can be several millimeters long. Under the skin, some are folded in a zigzag pattern. These can be as fine as spider silk, yet strong enough to distend the skin when you pull them, as if you were pulling on a hair.”

    Doctors say that this type of disease could only be caused by a parasite, but anti-parasitic medications do not help. Psychologists insist that this is a new version of the well-known syndrome known as “delusional parasitosis.” While this is a “real” disease, it is not a physically-caused one.

    But now there is physical evidence that Morgellons is NOT just psychological. When pharmacologist Randy Wymore offered to study some of these fibers if people sent them to him, he discovered that “fibers from different people looked remarkably similar to each other and yet seem to match no common environmental fibers.”

    When they took them to a police forensic team, they said they were not from clothing, carpets or bedding. They have no idea what they are.

    Researcher Ahmed Kilani says he was able to break down two fiber samples and extract their DNA. He found that they belonged to a fungus.

    An even more provocative finding is that biochemist Vitaly Citovsky discovered that the fibers contain a substance called “Agrobacterium,” which, according to New Scientist, is “used commercially to produce genetically-modified plants.” Could GM plants be “causing a new human disease?” (5)

    GMO – Not on My Watch!

    The giant transnational corporations behind the GMO revolution are hitting us in our most vulnerable spot – our bellies. Most people have been brought up with an innate trust that what they purchase from the stores is safe to eat.

    This is no longer true, since most processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients that can have disastrous effects on both animal and human health.

    What you purchase from the corner store might just change your DNA and create such frightening symptoms that the general public simply does not believe it. What is worse is that when you go to the doctor to get help, he/she tells you what you are experiencing is all in your head. This is rubbish! It is up to people who care to make the correlations between what we eat and what happens to our bodies. Remember the old saying – “you are what you eat?” Well, this author believes it is true.

    source globalresearch
     
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    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Tests Out Self-Driving Cars In Tokyo



    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a ride in several self-driving vehicles on the public roads in the capital on Saturday, showcasing the technology ahead of Tokyo Motor Show.

    Abe tried auto-piloting vehicles from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan on the roads around Japan's National Diet Building, as major international automakers compete with likes of Google and other IT firms to develop new types of cars with the goal of helping to reduce accidents by eradicating human error.

    "I felt with my body that the Japanese technology is the world's best," Abe told reporters after riding the vehicles.

    It was the first time that auto-piloting vehicles have run on ordinary roads in Japan.

    Automakers have previously tested self-driving vehicles on highways that offer better driving conditions, and no pedestrians.

    The Tokyo Motor Show, slated for later this month, will feature the self-driving technologies, as well as electric vehicles and other models.

    Abe has pledged to help advance auto-piloting technology as part of his economic policy, in addition to measures encouraging various technological innovations, investments and to attract foreign talents to work in Japan.

    Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
     
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    Clearly new snail

    Croatia’s deepest cave system is home to a tiny, translucent resident



    Croatia’s deepest cave system is home to a tiny, translucent resident. The newly named Zospeum tholussum belongs to a group of terrestrial snails found in wet subterranean habitats. Alexander Weigand of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany retrieved a living specimen from one chamber and a handful of empty shells from others more than 800 meters deep inside the Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system.

    At that depth, air temperature drops to a chilly 3.3° Celsius. The delicate shells averaged just 1.55 millimeters tall, or about the thickness of a penny. Unoccupied shells are nearly clear but turn milky white as they age, Weigand reported in August in Subterranean Biology.



    source sciencenews
     
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    TEDGlobal welcomes robot cockroaches



    A project aimed at creating cyborg cockroaches is being launched at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh.

    The insects, intended as a neuroscience learning tool, are controlled via a mobile phone.

    The Technology, Entertainment and Design conference specialises in showcasing new technologies.

    The theme of this year's conference is "think again", and the line-up of speakers is diverse, including a monk and a self-styled gentleman thief.

    Among the technology on offer this year will be RoboRoach, the brainchild of neuroscientist Greg Gage.

    The cyborg insect is created by attaching a backpack that communicates directly with neurons in the cockroach's antennae.

    The neurons convey information back to the insect's brain using electricity.

    The cockroach needs to undergo what Mr Gage calls "short surgery under anaesthetic" in order to have wires placed inside the antennae.



    Then the backpack can be placed on the insect and its movements controlled via a mobile phone or other device.

    The backpack communicates directly with neurons in the cockroach's antennae, allowing users to set the direction in which the insect moves.

    Mr Gage will take to the TED stage on Wednesday to demonstrate what the insect can do.

    "This is not just a gimmick, the technique is the same as that used to treat Parkinson's disease and in cochlear implants," he told BBC News.

    "The point of the project is to create a tool to learn about how our brain works."

    He said that the team had thought a lot about the ethics of using insects in this way.

    "We are pretty certain that this doesn't impose pain on the insect and they still have free will because they adapt very quickly and ignore the stimulation," he said.

    However the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has now told the BBC it has concerns.

    "The RSPCA believes it is inappropriate to encourage children to dismantle and deconstruct insects," said a spokesperson.

    "The fact that the neuroscientist is 'pretty certain' that this doesn't impose pain is, frankly, not certain enough."

    "There are already plenty of fascinating studies involving insects which can help children to learn - and ones that do not deliberately harm insects."
    Hands-on learning

    Mr Gage heads up Backyard Brains, a start-up of scientists and engineers aiming to change the way neuroscience is taught. The kits are primarily aimed at schools.

    "The audience for this is teachers. We would like to see this in more high schools," he said.

    Already budding neuroscientists have made some interesting discoveries, with high school children in New York working out that the pace at which the insects adapt to the stimulation can be slowed by randomising the signal.

    "This is a hands-on way of understanding the properties of neurons and doing critical thinking about how they work," said Mr Gage.


    Children had already made some good discoveries using the kit, said Mr Gage

    "One in five people will have a neurological disorder in their lives and there are often no cures for them. Getting kids interested in neuroscience is important."

    The team is launching a Kickstarter campaign aiming to raise $10,000 (£6,400) to develop the hardware, which will be made in Michigan.

    The kits come with backpacks, batteries and electrodes as well as optional insects, The insects could not be shipped outside of the US but could be sourced locally, said Mr Gage.

    source BBC
     
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    Messing with Our Minds: Psychiatric Drugs, Cyberspace and “Digital Indoctrination”

    Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself.

    At least 10 percent of all Americans over six-years-old are on antidepressants. That’s more than 35 million people, double the number from less than two decades ago. Anti-psychotics have meanwhile eclipsed cholesterol treatments as the country’s fastest selling and most profitable drugs, even though half the prescriptions treat disorders for which they haven’t been proven effective. At least 5 million children and adolescents use them, in part because more kids are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

    This raises some troubling issues: Are a growing number of people experiencing psychological troubles? Have we just become better at recognizing them? Or is some other dynamic at work?
    One possibility is that the criteria for what constitutes a mental illness or disability may have expanded to the point that a vast number appear to have clinical problems. But there’s an even more insidious development: the drugs being used to treat many of the new diagnoses could cause long-term effects that persist after the original trouble has been resolved. That’s the case made by Robert Whitaker in his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

    Speaking of long-term impacts on the brain, we’re also heading toward a world where humans are directly linked with computers that profoundly influence their perceptions and ideas. Despite many potential benefits, there is danger here as well. Rather than simply augmenting our memories by providing neutral information, the brain-computer connection may lead people into separate realities based on their assumptions and politics.

    Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” – a potent combination. Together, they pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself. Seduced by the promise that our brains can be managed and enhanced without serious side-effects, we may be creating a future where psychological dysfunction becomes a post-modern plague and powerful forces use cyberspace to reshape “reality” in their private interest.

    Do prescription drugs create new mental problems? And if so, how could it be happening? For Whitaker the answer lies in the effects of drugs on neurotransmitters, a process he calls negative feedback. When a drug blocks neurotransmitters or increases the level of serotonin, for instance, neurons initially attempt to counteract the effects. When the drug is used over a long period, however, it can produce “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function,” claims Steven Hyman, former director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. The brain begins to function differently. Its ability to compensate starts to fail and side effects created by the drug emerge.

    What comes next? More drugs and, along with them, new side effects, an evolving chemical mixture often accompanied by a revised diagnosis. According to Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, it can go this way: use of an antidepressant leads to mania, which leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which leads to the prescription of mood stabilizers. Through such a process people can end up taking several drugs daily for many years.

    What may happen after that is deeply troubling. Researcher Nancy Andreasen claims the brain begins to shrink, an effect she links directly to dosage and duration. “The prefrontal cortex doesn’t get the input it needs and is being shut down by drugs,” she explained in The New York Times. “That reduces the psychotic symptoms.” But the pre-frontal cortex gradually atrophies.

    Anyone who has been on the psychiatric drug roller coaster understands some of the ride’s risks and how hard it can be to get off. But the new implication is that we may be experiencing a medically-induced outbreak of brain dysfunction caused by the exploding use of drugs. One big unanswered question at the moment: What does Big Pharma really know, and when did they learn it?

    Drug companies are not the only ones experimenting with our brains. Bold research is also being pursued to create brain-computer interfaces that can help people overcome problems like memory loss. According to writer Michael Chorost, author of World Wide Mind and interface enthusiast who benefited from ear implants after going deaf, we may soon be directly connected to the Internet through neural implants. It sounds convenient and liberating. Ask yourself a question and, presto, there’s the answer. Google co-founder Larry Page can imagine a not-too-distant future in which you simply think about something and “your cell phone whispers the answer in your ear.”

    Beyond the fact that this could become irritating, there’s an unspoken assumption that the information received is basically unbiased, like consulting an excellent encyclopedia or a great library catalog. This is where the trouble starts. As Sue Halperin noted in a New York Review of Books essay, “Mind Control and the Internet,” Search engines like Google use an algorithm to show us what’s important. But even without the manipulation of marketing companies and consultants who influence some listings, each search is increasingly shaped to fit the profile of the person asking. If you think that we both get the same results from the same inquiry, guess again.

    What really happens is that you get results assembled just for you. Information is prioritized in a way that reinforces one’s previous choices, influenced by suggested assumptions and preferences. As Eli Pariser argues in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, environmental activists and energy executives get very different listings when they inquire about climate science. It looks and feels “objective” but they’re being fed data that fits with their existing view – and probably not seeing much that conflicts.

    A study discussed in Sociological Quarterly looked at this development by following attitudes about climate science over a decade. Here’s a strange but significant finding: Although a consensus emerged among most scientists over the years, the number of Republicans who accepted their conclusion dropped. Why? Because the Republicans were getting different information than the Democrats and others who embraced the basic premise. In other words, their viewpoint was being reflected back at them.

    Does this sound dangerous? Pariser thinks so, and suggests that the type of reinforcement made common by search engines is leading to inadvertent self-indoctrination. For democracy to function effectively, people need exposure to various viewpoints, “but instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own bubbles,” he writes. Rather than agreeing on a set of shared facts we’re being led deeper into our different worlds.

    Whether this is a problem depends somewhat on your expectations. For some people it is merely a bump in the road, a faltering step in the inevitable evolution of human consciousness. Techno-shamen and other cosmic optimists see the potential of drug-induced enlightenment and an Internet-assisted “hive mind,” and believe that the long-term outcome will be less violence, more trust, and a better world. But others have doubts, questioning whether we’ll really end up with technological liberation and a psychic leap forward. It could go quite differently, they worry. We could instead see millions of brain-addled casualties and even deeper social polarization.

    How will current trends influence democracy and basic human relations? Increased trust and participation don’t immediately come to mind. Rather, the result could be more suspicion, denial and paranoia, as if we don’t have enough. In fact, even the recent upsurge in anger and resentment may be drug and Internet-assisted, creating fertile ground for opportunists and demagogues.

    In False Alarm: The truth about the epidemic of fear, New York internist Marc Siegel noted that when the amygdala — the Brain’s central station for processing emotions – detects a threatening situation, it pours out stress hormones. If the stress persists too long, however, it can malfunction, overwhelm the hippocampus (center of the “thinking” brain), and be difficult to turn off. In the long term, this “fear biology” can wear people down, inducing paralysis or making them susceptible to diseases and delusions that they might otherwise resist. Addressing this problem with drugs that change the brain’s neural functioning isn’t apt to help. Either will the Internet’s tendency to provide information that reinforces whatever one already thinks.

    More than half a century ago, Aldous Huxley – who knew a bit about drugs – issued a dire prediction. He didn’t see the Internet coming, but other than that his vision remains relevant. “There will be within the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude,” he wrote in Brave New World, “and producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda, brainwashing or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods.”

    Pretty grim, but there’s no going back. Despite any dangers posed by computer algorithms and anti-psychotic drugs, they are with us for the foreseeable future. Still, what we have learned about them in recent years could help us to reduce the negatives. Not every illness listed in the DMS – that constantly growing, Big Pharma-influenced psychiatric bible – requires drug treatment. And the results of your online searches will very likely tell you what you want to know, but that does not mean you’re getting a “balanced” or comprehensive picture.

    source globalresearch
     
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    Silver nanoparticle use spurs U.S. consumer database

    The antibacterial superpowers of silver nanoparticles have landed them in household products ranging from self-sanitizing toothbrushes and washing machines to mold- and bacteria-resistant stuffed toys and underwear.

    These microscopic particles have become ubiquitous, but some are also questioning their risks. As a result, a U.S. research group has launched a public database to help people identify products containing silver and other nanoparticles.

    Many manufacturers have touted the antibacterial benefits of these microscopic pieces of silver, but the potential health and environmental risks are lesser known.

    “We don’t really understand very well what can happen to people when they get exposed to high doses of silver nanoparticles,” said Nina Quadros, associate director of the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

    Material such as silver nanoparticles can have big benefits for hygiene. Quadros said the basis of their antibacterial power is that they destroy the DNA and enzymes inside bacteria, causing the bacteria to die.

    Each nanoparticle is about 1/1000th the diameter of a human hair, and it is able to kill both common and drug-resistant microbes.

    “The only thing that [distinguishes] a silver nanoparticle from a silver spoon or a silver earring is the fact that it is so, so very small,” said Quadros.

    People have used fine particles of silver and other metals since the 16th century for applications such as dyeing stained glass windows or keeping cow’s milk fresh. But it wasn’t until 1974 that a scientist in Tokyo first used the term “nanotechnology,” according to DiscoverNano.org.

    In the last 10 years, scientists have taken on the challenge of creating a database on nanomaterials that provides a resource for consumers on the link between specific products and the scientific studies in which they are tested.

    On Oct. 28, the Wilson Center, an independent research centre in Washington D.C., released the most comprehensive database of consumer products that self-identify as containing nanomaterials. This inventory currently includes 1,628 consumer products from around the world.

    Silver is the most common material in the database, with 383 products listed. Titanium is the second most common, with 179 products listed.

    The Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory was assembled by scientists working with the Wilson Center, in part to facilitate more informed public policy debates, according to its website.

    Quadros, who works with the Wilson Center, said that before this database was put online in 2007, citizens, researchers and policymakers didn’t have a source to check how, and in what consumer products, nanoparticles are used.

    Household products containing silver nanoparticles include such items as toothpaste, face creams, medical bandages, disinfectants, kids' plush toys, baby blankets, towels, socks, kitchen utensils and insecticides.

    Examining the benefits and risks

    This database compiles the known benefits and risks of nanotechnology from the point of view both of manufacturers of nano-tech products and the scientists studying them.

    For example, the database contains wording from the makers of the Benny the Bear plush toy, which states,“With the additive of silver nanoparticles, our product has been clinically proven to fight against harmful bacteria, molds and mites.”

    On the same web page, you’ll find an excerpt from a research paper that assessed the risks posed by such goods for children: “levels of silver to which children may potentially be exposed during the normal use of these consumer products is predicted to be low.”

    ​While the human health risks of using silver nanoparticles are not well understood, “if you inhale silver nanoparticles, they’re definitely bad for you,” said Quadros.

    In a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Quadros found silver nanoparticles in throat sprays that can accumulate over time and cause lung damage.

    “Silver is a metal, and it bio-accumulates,” said Quadros. “Your body will release some of the silver, but a lot of it gets deposited on your skin and it can get deposited in many different organs.”

    As for environmental risks, silver nanoparticles in waste water runoff can potentially upset the balance of the food web. The Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology website highlights an experiment in which silver nanoparticles in waste water runoff killed a third of the plants and microbes exposed to the liquid.

    Todd Kuiken, senior research associate at the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP), said the new database will help consumers “make up their own mind on the safety or efficiency of a product.”

    The Wilson Center intends to use crowdsourcing to keep the database current and accurate.

    “We hope scientists, policymakers and citizens will contribute new information to the inventory,” said David Rejeski, director of the Wilson Center’s STIP.

    “Broad participation, especially from the scientific community, will help make the inventory more accurate and usable over time."

    source cbc
     
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    Dogs and humans became best friends in Europe more than 18,000 years ago. That’s the conclusion of a genetic study of dogs and wolves, both ancient and modern.

    The time and place of dog domestication have been hotly debated, with genetic studies and archaeological finds often seeming to contradict each other. Fossils from Europe had suggested doglike creatures existed there for about 30,000 years. But some genetic studies placed the birth of domestic dogs in China or the Middle East (SN: 4/10/10, p. 12). Previous genetic studies have compared DNA from living dogs and wolves, but those efforts generally did not include ancient DNA.

    source sciencenews
     
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    Brain reconstruction hints at dinosaur communication

    Because brains are soft and break down quickly, dinosaurs left behind few clues about their brainpower. Neuroscientist Erich Jarvis of Duke University and colleagues worked around this problem by studying dinosaurs’ living relatives: birds. The team compared the brains of crocodiles, which evolved before dinosaurs, with the brains of birds, which descended from dinosaurs.

    Crocodiles and birds both have complex brain regions that help sense other animals’ vocalizations, the team reported November 12 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Since birds and crocs both have these regions, dinosaurs probably did too, the scientists suggest.

    That finding suggests that dinosaurs such as T. rex were capable of processing complex stimuli, such as sounds made by other dinosaurs. As for whether dinosaurs communicated with sound, Jarvis said their study can’t say for sure. “But all the structures are there.”

    source sciencenews
     
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    New Hi-Tech Police Surveillance: The “StingRay” Cell Phone Spying Device

    Blocked by a Supreme Court decision from using GPS tracking devices without a warrant, federal investigators and other law enforcement agencies are turning to a new, more powerful and more threatening technology in their bid to spy more freely on those they suspect of drug crimes. That’s leading civil libertarians, electronic privacy advocates, and even some federal judges to raise the alarm about a new surveillance technology whose use has yet to be taken up definitively by the federal courts.


    StingRay cell phone spying device (US Patent photo)

    The new surveillance technology is the StingRay (also marketed as Triggerfish, IMSI Catcher, Cell-site Simulator or Digital Analyzer), a sophisticated, portable spy device able to track cell phone signals inside vehicles, homes and insulated buildings. StingRay trackers act as fake cell towers, allowing police investigators to pinpoint location of a targeted wireless mobile by sucking up phone data such as text messages, emails and cell-site information.

    When a suspect makes a phone call, the StingRay tricks the cell into sending its signal back to the police, thus preventing the signal from traveling back to the suspect’s wireless carrier. But not only does StingRay track the targeted cell phone, it also extracts data off potentially thousands of other cell phone users in the area.

    Although manufactured by a Germany and Britain-based firm, the StingRay devices are sold in the US by the Harris Corporation, an international telecommunications equipment company. It gets between $60,000 and $175,000 for each Stingray it sells to US law enforcement agencies.

    [While the US courts are only beginning to grapple with StingRay, the high tech cat-and-mouse game between cops and criminals continues afoot. Foreign hackers reportedly sell an underground IMSI tracker to counter the Stingray to anyone who asks for $1000. And in December 2011, noted German security expert Karsten Nohl released "Catcher Catcher," powerful software that monitors a network's traffic to seek out the StingRay in use.]

    Originally intended for terrorism investigations, the feds and local law enforcement agencies are now using the James Bond-type surveillance to track cell phones in drug war cases across the nation without a warrant. Federal officials say that is fine — responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and the First Amendment Coalition, the Justice Department argued that no warrant was needed to use StingRay technology.

    “If a device is not capturing the contents of a particular dialogue call, the device does not require a warrant, but only a court order under the Pen Register Statute showing the material obtained is relevant to an ongoing investigation,” the department wrote.

    The FBI claims that it is adhering to lawful standards in using StingRay. “The bureau advises field officers to work closely with the US Attorney’s Office in their districts to comply with legal requirements,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told the Washington Post last week, but the agency has refused to fully disclose whether or not its agents obtain probable cause warrants to track phones using the controversial device.

    And the federal government’s response to the EFF’s FOIA about Stingray wasn’t exactly responsive. While the FOIA request generated over 20,000 records related to StingRay, the Justice Department released only a pair of court orders and a handful of heavily redacted documents that didn’t explain when and how the technology was used.

    The LA Weekly reported in January that the StingRay “intended to fight terrorism was used in far more routine Los Angeles Police criminal investigations,” apparently without the courts’ knowledge that it probes the lives of non-suspects living in the same neighborhood with a suspect.

    Critics say the technology wrongfully invades technology and that its uncontrolled use by law enforcement raised constitutional questions. “It is the biggest threat to cell phone privacy you don’t know about,” EFF said in a statement.

    ACLU privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian told a Yale Law School Location Tracking and Biometrics Conference panel last month that “the government uses the device either when a target is routinely and quickly changing phones to thwart a wiretap or when police don’t have sufficient cause for a warrant.”

    “The government is hiding information about new surveillance technology not only from the public, but even from the courts,” ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye wrote in a legal brief in the first pending federal StingRay case (see below). “By keeping courts in the dark about new technologies, the government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants, and that’s not how the Constitution works.”

    Lye further expressed concern over the StingRay’s ability to interfere with cell phone signals in violation of Federal Communication Act. “We haven’t seen documents suggesting the LAPD or any other agency have sought or obtained FCC authorization,” she wrote.

    “If the government shows up in your neighborhood, essentially every phone is going to check in with the government,” said the ACLU’s Soghoian. “The government is sending signals through people’s walls and clothes and capturing information about innocent people. That’s not much different than using invasive technology to search every house on a block,” Soghoian said during interviews with reporters covering the StingRay story.

    Advocates also raised alarms over another troubling issue: Using the StingRay allows investigators to bypass the routine process of obtaining fee-based location data from cell service providers like Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast. Unlike buying location data fro service providers, using StingRay leaves no paper trail for defense attorneys.

    Crack defense attorney Stephen Leckar who scored a victory in a landmark Supreme Court decision over the feds’ warrantless use of a GPS tracker in US v. Jones, a cocaine trafficking case where the government tracked Jones’ vehicle for weeks without a warrant, also has concerns.

    “Anytime the government refuses to disclose the ambit of its investigatory device, one has to wonder, what’s really happening,” he told the Chronicle. ”If without a warrant the feds use this sophisticated device for entry into people’s homes, accessing private information, they may run afoul of a concurring opinion by Justice Alito, who ruled in US v Jones whether people would view unwarranted monitoring of their home or property as Constitutionally repugnant.”

    Leckar cited Supreme Court precedent in Katz v. US (privacy) and US v. Kyllo (thermal imaging), where the Supreme Court prohibited searches conducted by police from outside the home to obtain information behind closed doors. Similar legal thinking marked February’s Supreme Court decision in a case where it prohibited the warrantless use of drug dogs to sniff a residence, Florida v. Jardines.

    The EFF FOIA lawsuit shed light on how the US government sold StingRay devices to state and local law enforcement agencies for use specifically in drug cases. The Los Angeles and Fort Worth police departments have publicly acknowledged buying the devices, and records show that they are using them for drug investigations.

    “Out of 155 cell phone investigations conducted by LAPD between June and September 2012, none of these cases involved terrorism, but primarily involved drugs and other felonies,” said Peter Scheer, director of the First Amendment Center.

    The StingRay technology is so new and so powerful that it not only raises Fourth Amendment concerns, it also raises questions about whether police and federal agents are withholding information about it from judges to win approval to monitor suspects without meeting the probable cause standard required by the Fourth. At least one federal judge thinks they are. Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley of the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi told the Yale conference federal prosecutors are using clever techniques to fool judges into allowing use of StingRay. They will draft surveillance requests to appear as Pen Register applications, which don’t need to meet the probable cause standards.

    “After receiving a second StingRay request,” Owsley told the panel, “I emailed every magistrate judge in the country telling them about the device. And hardly anyone understood them.”

    In a earlier decision related to a Cell-site Simulator, Judge Owsley denied a DEA request to obtain data information to identify where the cell phone belonging to a drug trafficker was located. DEA wanted to use the suspect’s E911 emergency tracking system that is operated by the wireless carrier. E911 trackers reads signals sent to satellites from a cell phone’s GPS chip or by triangulation of radio transmitted signal. Owsley told the panel that federal agents and US attorneys often apply for a court order to show that any information obtained with a StingRay falls under the Stored Communication Act and the Pen Register statute.

    DEA later petitioned Judge Owsley to issue an order allowing the agent to track a known drug dealer with the StingRay. DEA emphasized to Owsley how urgently they needed approval because the dealer had repeatedly changed cell phones while they spied on him. Owsley flatly denied the request, indicating the StingRay was not covered under federal statute and that DEA and prosecutors had failed to disclose what they expected to obtain through the use of the stored data inside the drug dealer’s phone, protected by the Fourth Amendment.

    “There was no affidavit attached to demonstrate probable cause as required by law under rule 41 of federal criminal procedures,” Owsley pointed out. The swiping of data off wireless phones is “cell tower dumps on steroids,” Owsley concluded.

    But judges in other districts have ruled favorably for the government. A federal magistrate judge in Houston approved DEA request for cell tower data without probable cause. More recently, New York Southern District Federal Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein approved warrantless cell-site data.

    “The government did not install the tracking device — and the cell user chose to carry the phone that permitted transmission of its information to a carrier,” Gorenstein held in that opinion. “Therefore no warrant is needed.”

    In a related case, US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady of the Northern District of Virginia ruled that the government could obtain data from Twitter accounts of three Wikileakers without a warrant. Because they had turned over their IP addresses when they opened their Twitter accounts, they had no expectation of privacy, he ruled.

    “Petitioners knew or should have known that their IP information was subject to examination by Twitter, so they had a lessened expectation of privacy in that information, particularly in light of their apparent consent to the Twitter terms of service and privacy policy,” Judge O’Grady wrote.

    A federal judge in Arizona is now set to render a decision in the nation’s first StingRay case. After a hearing last week, the court in US v. Rigmaiden is expected to issue a ruling that could set privacy limits on how law enforcement uses the new technology. Just as the issue of GPS tracking technology eventually ended up before the Supreme Court, this latest iteration of the ongoing balancing act between enabling law enforcement to do its job and protecting the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens could well be headed there, too.

    source globalresearch
     
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    Google and Microsoft to block child abuse web searches



    Internet searches for child abuse images will be blocked for the first time by Microsoft and Google after months of mounting pressure.

    New software is to be introduced that will automatically block 100,000 "unambiguous" search terms which lead to illegal content, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told the Daily Mail.

    Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the decision by the two internet giants as "significant progress" after the companies had insisted that it "couldn't be done, shouldn't be done".

    The restrictions will be launched in the UK first, before being expanded to other English-speaking countries and 158 other languages in the next six months.

    A further 13,000 search terms linked with child sex abuse will flash up with warnings from Google and charities warning the user that the content could be illegal and pointing them towards help.

    Mr Cameron told the newspaper that child protection experts drew up the list of unique search terms which would undoubtedly lead to sex abuse images and videos.

    "If you used these you were looking for child abuse images online," he said.

    "At the time, Google and Microsoft - who cover 95% of the market - said blocking search results couldn't be done, that it shouldn't be done.

    "They argued that it was against the very principle of the internet and search engines to block material, even if there was no doubt that some of the search terms being used by paedophiles were abhorrent in a modern society.

    "I did not accept that then and I do not accept that now."

    Calls for the internet companies to take action against searching for illegal content reached boiling point following the trials of child killers Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazel earlier this year.

    Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones, and Hazel, who killed 12-year-old Tia Sharp, both used the internet to search for child abuse images before the killings.

    Mr Cameron told the newspaper: "We learnt from cases like the murder of Tia Sharp and April Jones that people will often start accessing extreme material via a simple search in one of the mainstream engines."

    Mr Schmidt said Google has been working with Microsoft, which owns the Bing search engine, and law enforcement agencies since the summer following strong warnings from the Government to take action.

    "We've listened, and in the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem," he said.

    "We've fine tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results.

    "While no algorithm (instructions for software) is perfect - and Google cannot prevent paedophiles adding new images to the web - these changes have cleared up the results for over 100,000 queries that might be related to the sexual abuse of kids."

    source independent
     
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    Exposed: The myth of the global warming 'pause'



    Scientists can now explain the “pause” in global warming that sceptics have used to bolster their arguments. Sceptics had claimed we have nothing to fear from climate change because it has stopped being a problem.

    A new study has found that global temperatures have not flat-lined over the past 15 years, as weather station records have been suggesting, but have in fact continued to rise as fast as previous decades, during which we have seen an unprecedented acceleration in global warming.

    The findings will undermine the arguments of leading sceptics, such as the former Chancellor Lord Lawson, who have criticised scientists from the Met Office and other climate organisations for not accepting that global warming has stopped since about 1998.

    Two university scientists have found that the “pause” or “hiatus” in global temperatures can be largely explained by a failure of climate researchers to record the dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures over the past decade or more.

    When Kevin Cowtan of York University and Robert Way of Ottawa University found a way of estimating Arctic temperatures from satellite readings, the so-called pause effectively disappeared and the global warming signal returned as strong as before.

    The paucity of surface-temperature records in the remote and inaccessible Arctic has long been recognised as a problem for global estimates, not least by the Met Office itself.

    However, the scale of the Arctic warming highlighted by Mr Cowtan and Mr Way has surprised seasoned climate researchers.

    “The problem with the polar areas lacking data coverage has been known for a long time, but I think this study has basically solved it,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

    He added: “People will argue about the details, as is normal in science, but I think basically this will hold up to scrutiny.”

    source independent
     
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    NASA Sends «Maven» to Mars

    “The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) will explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds – such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water – from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. The MAVEN Principal Investigator is Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP), and the project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center”. – NASA



    A sign along the NASA Kennedy Space Center causeway displays to passersby that there is one day remaining until the scheduled launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft onboard from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Sunday, November 17, 2013, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The robotic explorer called Maven is due to blast off Monday, November 18, 2013 on a 10-month journey to the red planet. There, it will orbit Mars and study the atmosphere to try to understand how the planet morphed from warm and wet to cold and dry. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/AP Photo/NASA)



    An AtlasV rocket rolls out to Launch Complex 41 carrying the Maven spacecraft Saturday, November 16, 2013, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Maven spacecraft will directly assess the atmosphere of the planet Mars. (Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)



    This photo provided by NASA shows a full moon rising behind the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft onboard at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Sunday, November 17, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA's next Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/AP Photo/NASA)



    An Atlas V rocket, carrying the Maven spacecraft, blasts off at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Monday, November 18, 20131. Maven is on a 10-month journey will directly assess the atmosphere of the planet Mars. (Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)



    An Atlas V rocket, carrying the Maven spacecraft, blasts off at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Monday, November 18, 20131. Maven is on a 10-month journey will directly assess the atmosphere of the planet Mars. (Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)



    NASA's newest robotic explorer, Maven, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday, November 18, 2013, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The spacecraft will orbit Mars and study the planet's upper atmosphere.(Photo by AP Photo/John Raoux)
     
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